End Of The Orphan Train

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Easter 6A – End of the Orphan Train

John 14:15-21

May 21, 2017

 

In the mid-1800’s there were an estimated

30,000 homeless, orphaned, and abandoned children in New York City.

 

Some of these children were orphaned when their parents died

from typhoid, yellow fever or the flu.[2]

Others were abandoned due to poverty or addiction.[2]

 

Many children sold matches, rags, or newspapers to survive.[3]

For protection against street violence, they got together and formed gangs.[3

They lived on the streets

without much hope of a better life.

 

In a kind of early foster care program –

with both the blessings and abuses of modern day foster care –

the Children’s Aid Society sent some of these children

by train to live and work on farms out west.

 

The orphan train movement lasted from 1853 through the early 1900’s.

 

The movement began with the heartfelt belief

In a handful of community leaders that no child should be left alone…

That children should feel safe.

That they should be loved and cared for.

 

Today’s gospel reminds us that regardless how old we are;

Whether we have living parents or not;

It is human to want to feel safe.

It is human to want to be loved and cared for.

It is human to be afraid of being left alone.

 

Jesus tells his disciples…and each of us today…

You are not alone.

You are never alone.

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The Voice

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Easter 4A – The Voice

John 10:1-10

May 7, 2017

 

I’ve never had a good sense of direction.

Never.

So when I started Kindergarten long ago,

I was worried – I wasn’t sure how I was going to get home.

 

I didn’t have to walk home;

And I didn’t have to find the right bus home;

The only thing I had to do was leave the school on the correct side of the building –

the Livingston Avenue side…

and that would be where my mother would be parked to drive me home.

 

I remember getting anxious pretty much every day though,

that I would miss the cue –

that someday the older student who was the line leader would forget to come to my room,

or the teacher would forget to call out Livingston Avenue –

and I’d be completely lost –

I’d never find my way to my mother’s car and then home.

 

Each day there was the same routine.

One of the older kids would come to our classroom door,

And the teacher would call out:

“Bus students line up” – and then out the door they’d walk.

“Stratford Avenue line up” – and out the door they’d walk.

 

I was on pins and needles by this time!

But finally, the voice, “Livingston Avenue line up” came.

And every time – every time – I would breathe a sigh of relief…

That’s me!

I will get home one more day!

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The Kitchen Maid

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Easter 3A

Luke 24:13-49

April 30, 2017

 

The 17th century artist Diego Velazquez

painted a picture of today’s gospel reading.

His painting is on display at the National Gallery of Art of Ireland in Dublin

and is called The Kitchen Maid….

 

Feel free to look through the reading again…

Kitchen maid?

Where’s the kitchen maid?

 

Luke doesn’t include the kitchen maid…

But of course there was one.

If there was a meal served in Emmaus,

there was a woman behind the scenes preparing it.

She is simply unnamed and unnoticed.

 

Velazquez notices her though.

She is the focal point of the painting.

 

In fact for years, before the painting was restored,

the figures of Jesus and his two companions were completely missing from the painting.

Only after the restoration did they appear in the upper left corner. Continue reading

Seven Last Words of Christ

 

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The First Word

Reading: Luke 23:32-34

Two others also, who were criminals, were led away to be put to death with him (Jesus). When they came to the place that is called The Skull, they crucified Jesus there with the criminals, one on his right and one on his left. Then Jesus said, ‘Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.’

Shared by Bill Susling.

“Father, Forgive Them”

The crucifixion had begun.  The soldiers were driving nails through his hands and feet, fixing him to the cross.

Just the physical pain was horrendous.  Jesus turns to prayer.  I might have prayed for myself.  But Jesus didn’t pray for himself.  He prayed for others.  “Father, forgive them.”

But who is “them”?  Are they the soldiers who were hammering the nails?  Yes, surely—“Father, forgive them.”

The soldiers had officers making sure the crucifixions were carried out smoothly.  “Father, forgive them.”

Does this include the high priests and the elders?  They wanted to be rid of this troublemaker.  They brought Jesus to Pilate, the governor.  Then they went among the crowd urging everyone to shout that Jesus should be crucified.  “Father, forgive them.”

And the crowd—they did exactly what they were urged to do.  They yelled, “Crucify him!  Crucify him!”  “Father, forgive them.”

What about Pilate, and as we learn from Luke, Herod the tetrarch?  Either of these men could have stopped the crucifixion.  They didn’t.  “Father, forgive them.”

Yet Jesus suffered more than mere physical pain.  He was bearing the sins of the world when he uttered this prayer.  Bore the sins of the world is an easy thing to say.  But bearing the world’s spiritual evil must be something that is incomprehensible to us.

Yes, Jesus bore your sins and mine.  We are “them”.  “Father, forgive them.”  Father, forgive us.  Amen.

 

 

The Second Word

Reading: Luke 23:39-43

One of the criminals who were hanged there kept deriding him and saying, ‘Are you not the Messiah? Save yourself and us!’ But the other rebuked him, saying, ‘Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed have been condemned justly, for we are getting what we deserve for our deeds, but this man has done nothing wrong.’ Then he said, ‘Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.’ He replied, ‘Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise.’

 

Shared by James Zellhart

 

In His dying moments, Jesus was offering comfort to a His neighbor, a stranger, a criminal.

‘Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise.’

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The Room Where It Happened

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April 13, 2017

John 13:1-17; 31b-35

 

The most popular Broadway show of late is a musical about the life of Alexander Hamilton –

Yes, the guy on the 10 dollar bill.

I haven’t seen the show, but I’ve heard the music.

Maybe it’s so popular because many of the songs

are relevant to today.

 

One song I’m thinking about on this Maundy Thursday

is, “The Room Where It Happens.”

Lin-Manuel Miranda said it’s one of the two best songs he’s ever written…

(I could be wrong…but I think it’s probably more because of the banjo

than because of its relationship to Maundy Thursday).

 

The song is from the second act.

Alexander Hamilton, Thomas Jefferson, and James Madison,

(an immigrant and two Virginians) meet over dinner.

 

Hamilton has been at odds with the other two leaders.

As Secretary of the Treasury he has come up with a financial plan

that they’ve been opposed to.

So there’s some wheeling and dealing;

some quid pro quo behind closed doors.

And then they’re done.

 

By the end of the meal,

the three leaders have made an unprecedented decision.

It’s called the Compromise of 1790:

 

The capital of the United States will be moved to the District of Columbia,

and Alexander Hamilton’s financial plan is approved.

The deal is hashed out over good food and drink,

privately among leaders –  in the “room where it happened.”

 

The way this deal is made isn’t all that surprising.

We’re used to these kinds of things happening among those in leadership

In board rooms or conference rooms.

The power players get together,

A vision is set;

Plans are made;

They make sure everyone is on the same page –

(privately in that room where it happens) –

And then together they announce the plan to the world.

 

Jesus arrives in Jerusalem for the festival of Passover.

As the gospel of John tells the story,

after he raises Lazarus from the dead,

Jesus has gained a large following – there is a crowd following him now.

 

This is no longer a small cult;

It’s no longer just a handful of people following a carpenter from Galilee.

This is now a movement.

 

They could have ignored a small group of rebels.

They can’t ignore Jesus.

He now leads a movement which needs to be stopped,

and they plot against him.

 

In the midst of all this, the disciples and Jesus meet for a meal

in an upper room.

 

As the disciples see it, perhaps it’s a strategy session –

not unlike the one with Hamilton, Jefferson and Madison.

 

It begins as expected,

Food is served; wine is poured.

 

They look at Jesus to begin the conversation

about how they’re going to rise up against the opposition.

How Jesus plans to show the Roman and religious leaders that he is the messiah!

How he plans to defeat the powers that be which are against him.

 

Eventually, during supper, Jesus rises from the table.

“This is it,” the others think.

“This is where we get the inspirational speech.

This is what we’re here for.”

And they’re right…but it happens all wrong.

 

Jesus takes off his outer robe,

and ties a towel (not a sword) around his waist.

 

He pours water into a basin,

and begins to wash the disciples’ feet.

 

One by one he washes the feet of all of them.

Some are embarrassed for him…

getting on the floor for God’s sake!

Some are disappointed by him…

what kind of plan for defeating the enemy is this?

All are confused by him…

 

Jesus says, “I give you a new commandment.

That you love one another.

Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another.”

 

Of course this commandment is not really new…

It is in the Torah – in the book of Leviticus.

But in that upper room, with the leaders of this revolutionary movement,

Jesus sets a radical vision.

 

He says, this is what my followers will be known for…

This is what the mark of one of my disciples will be…

 

You will be known not for how you defeated an enemy…

But for how you caree for one another.

 

And that’s when they realize that this board meeting

is not what they thought it would be.

 

In his historical novel, Ah But Your Land Is Beautiful,

Alan Paton tells the true story of a white South African judge named Jan Christiaan Oliver.

(story re-told by Paul Duke in Interpretation[i])

 

A black pastor invited him to attend his church on Maundy Thursday.

In the days of apartheid, the judge knew the risk of accepting such an invitation

but he accepted anyway.

 

He discovered it was a service of footwashing,

and was urged to participate.

 

He was called forward to wash the feet of a woman named Martha Fortuin,

who as it happens, had been a servant in his own house for thirty years.

 

Kneeling at her feet, he was struck by

how weary they looked from so many years of serving him.

Greatly moved, he held her feet with gentle hands and kissed them.

 

Martha fell to weeping, as did many others in the room.

The newspapers got word of it, and Oliver lost his political career.”

 

Jesus says this is what my followers will be known for.

This is what the mark of one of my disciples will be.

 

And ever after they told the story about the room where it happened.

The room where it happened.

[i] http://web.b.ebscohost.com/ehost/pdfviewer/pdfviewer?sid=fdb5ef97-e1c8-4dbb-9f32-9ec06902c330%40sessionmgr104&vid=1&hid=107

Judas’ Mistake

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Homily for Palm-Passion Sunday – Matthew 26:14-27:66

April 9, 2017

 

For 30 pieces of silver…

Is that why he did it?

Is that why Judas turned Jesus in?

 

An article I read this week talked about 3 primary reasons for betrayal…[i]

 

The first is excessive greed or ambition.

Thirty pieces of silver…

 

In today’s dollars, 30 pieces of silver would be about $200

It was comparable to about 4 months’ wages.

So maybe Judas did it simply for the money.

 

A second reason people sometimes betray others is for a sense of a greater good.

 

Some scholars suggest that Judas belonged to the group of Jews called Zealots.

The Zealots were an underground resistance movement.

They were waiting for a messiah who would bring about

an all out revolt against the Romans.

 

Maybe when Jesus didn’t start the revolution

when he arrived in the city gates riding on a donkey –

Judas went to the authorities,

So that the movement could get rid of this false messiah

and rally around someone else who would get the job done.

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Blind Spots

Lent 4A – Blind Spots

John 9:1-41

March 26, 2017

 

Some of you know that I drive a Toyota Yaris.

For the most part, I love this car –

It’s small enough to park

And yet has a hatchback so I can fit my bike in the back.

Actually those were about the only two requirements I had in a car when I bought it.

 

As I started driving my Yaris though –I realized there was a problem.

The first time I noticed it was on the beltway,

and just as I was thinking of moving to the right lane,

a car came up out of nowhere…

The car has a huge blind spot.

 

The story of Jesus and the man born blind

reminds us that all of us have blind spots.

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